Who’s afraid of test anxiety?
Lots of students come to me with an almost paralyzing fear of the SAT or ACT. They’re nervous about their peformance on the test, about what the results might mean for their future, In my own personal research around the how’s and why’s of test anxiety, I’ve found some helpful resources for students, parents, and teachers alike. This post from the OnLessons blog sums up the best practices for tutors working with kids who deal with test anxiety.
Here’s my edited and revised version of their list:
- Simulation. Rigorous practice within the mental, temporal, and structural confines of the test itself is the single best thing a student suffering from test anxiety can do to break down the debilitating barriers that anxiety erects. In other words, students need to be taking timed practice tests as often as possible leading up to the real test date.
- Develop a process. Creating an individualized plan of attack for each question type is what I spend nearly 60% of my time on during SAT, ACT, SSAT, and GRE prep sessions. Since every student is different, one student’s method for geometry questions may not work for another student. Know the test, sure––but know thyself as well!
- Learn basic test-taking strategies. This includes pacing, elimination, and omission strategies. Knowing when and how to eliminate will vary with the test, as well when and how to omit (the ACT, for instance, does not penalize you for incorrect answers––so omitting is a poor strategy; the SAT, on the other hand, rewards wise omission). BYU has a great resource detailing general test-taking strategies here.
- Keep the test in perspective. I find students’ performance generally improves when they understand the origins and uses of the test. It helps to see the test not as handed down from on high but as a historically-conditioned, limited assessment of their academic strengths and weaknesses. It also might help students to learn that even the brightest kids experience test anxiety––so anxiety itself has no bearing on a student’s intelligence. If anything, it’s a sign they’re motivated to succeed!
So if your student is experiencing test anxiety, make sure they’re working with the real materials (North Avenue ONLY uses the official College Board- and ACT-released practice tests) as well as a qualified, empathetic tutor.